Emerging Entrepreneurs

This village provides everything that a start-up would require

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on February 18, 2019 Published on February 18, 2019

Prasad Balakrishnan Nair, CEO, Maker Village   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Kochi-based Maker Village incubates electronics hardware manufacturing

There is a lot of pride when Prasad talks about the Maker Village, an electronic hardware incubator. A little over two years old, Maker Village, he says, is not just an incubator. It has ESDM (Electronics System Design and Manufacturing) facility with an industrial grade SMT line with a capacity of 25,000 components an hour. It has added or is in the process of adding more facilities such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

What does the name signify? You make things here, so Maker. And, a village is a self-contained unit. Likewise, this Village provides everything that a start-up would require.

Maker Village, he says, has 68 start-ups under incubation, of which 26 have reached the productisation stage. This is just in a little over two years, he emphasises. As many as 22 of the 26 companies have got their first purchase order. He reels off other statistics: 28 patents have been filed, of which four have been granted and eight more are expected in the next six months. “These are important milestones that have propelled us to the top among the electronic hardware incubators,” says Prasad.

Working with SMEs

He points out that Kerala always had a tradition of electronic hardware manufacturing; there was Keltron, a Kerala Government undertaking, that made television sets long before other State Government undertakings did so. Do you know that there are nearly 140 electronics SMEs in Kochi alone, he asks. Maker Village will integrate and work with these SMEs, catering to their needs, he points out.

The start-ups that are selected for incubation at Maker Village must have an electronic hardware part to it and must use emerging technologies to solve consumer-focussed problems. For instance, Prasad points to one such start-up, NAVA Design and Innovation Pvt Ltd, which has developed an automatic coconut palm tapping system for tapping ‘neera’ or toddy from coconut plantations. Founded by a Keralite who had worked in the Gulf, this product will find use not just in Kerala, but also in all States and other countries where coconut is grown, says Prasad.

 

Tapping the neera is a 90-day process and has to be done thrice a day, which means a person has to climb a coconut tree 270 times during this 90-day cycle. With labour not being available, coconut plantations have suffered. This electro-mechanical device for extracting neera with a vacuum-enabled extraction process will find a large domestic and overseas market, according to Prasad. This is just one of the innovative products that find everyday use being developed out of Maker Village, he emphasises. “The important point is, more than the technological leverage, the kind of changes it can bring to society, it can revolutionalise an industry that is on the decline,” says Prasad, of the product. There is a lot of interest for the product, he adds.

Apart from providing space for the start-ups, Maker Village helps them connect with industry players, investors and mentors. Three projects have raised VC funding, six have got funding from public sector units and defence establishments have given purchase orders to a few start-ups.

At present, Maker Village does not take a stake in the companies that come for incubation, but plans to do in the near future. The facility is spread over 30,000 sq ft and with more space becoming available shortly, It can incubate up to 100 start-ups at a time. There is a good pipeline of start-ups waiting for incubation, split equally between those coming fresh out of college and those who are turning entrepreneurs after a professional career.

“We are having a unique blend of experience and youthful energy in the start-ups. That is going to be another unique selling proposition for Maker Village,” says Prasad.

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Published on February 18, 2019
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